STRATEGY AREA 1
DIRECT FAMILY SUPPORT FOR ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITY
Too often in Chicago (and elsewhere) those closest to our most vulnerable students and schools—parents and community members—are left out of the school reform process regarding their own child’s education. Even worse, oftentimes when families are engaged in the process, they are included too late and/or without being given access to clear, comprehensive, and transparent information about their schools.
This historical approach to education reform has created distrust between communities and district leadership, and has emphasized school type over school quality. As a result, sometimes even good ideas fell flat because communities felt resentment that solutions where done “to them” instead of “with them”.
To remedy inequities, we bring parents to the decision-making table, taking the time to provide transparent and digestible information to fuel their engagement. As we gather their feedback and work with them to pinpoint barriers to a high-quality education, we also work together to create solutions to address those barriers. At the same time, we partner with the district in creating natural points of parent engagement -- to ensure that parent voice is always central to education policy moving forward -- while supporting systems and structures that address root causes of inequity and low-quality education outcomes.
We have a strong team of community engagement professionals focusing on communities across the city. We also created the Chicago School Guide—a comprehensive community and family engagement digital tool and information warehouse on Chicago’s K-12 public schools.
As the online hub, the School Guide website aims to make school quality information more transparent, available, and easy to understand. It provides a school search tool—recently enhanced with new features and the latest-available school quality information—that allows students and parents to explore schools in their neighborhoods and across the district. Further, once families have identified high-quality schools, the site provides information around enrollment eligibility. The website also includes downloadable resources and “train-the-trainer” enrollment tools for community- and school-based partners.
As families are empowered with quality information and data, they naturally begin to advocate for the changes needed to improve access, quality, and transparency in Chicago’s public education system. We take a three-pronged approach to building parent champions: help parents identify and navigate to quality schools; use parent feedback to shape kids-first policies; and provide infrastructure to parent champions amplifying their voices through earned and paid media.
Guadalupe, A Kids First Chicago Parent, shares her experience navigating the school system as a Spanish speaker. Watch the Video